Kansas City (53-76) at Toronto (65-63)

Mostly Cloudy Currently: Toronto, ON
Temp: 59° F
  • Game info: 7:07 pm EDT Wed Aug 24, 2011
  • TV: FSKC, RSN
Preview | Box Score | Recap

Ricky Romero(notes) likely won’t be mentioned with Justin Verlander(notes) and CC Sabathia(notes) when discussing potential Cy Young Award candidates, though he’s pitched better than anyone during his recent hot streak.

Romero shoots for a sixth consecutive victory when his Toronto Blue Jays host the Kansas City Royals on Wednesday night.

Since July 27, Romero (12-9, 2.73 ERA) has been baseball’s best pitcher. He’s gone 5-0 with a 0.89 ERA - tied for the most wins while compiling the best ERA in that span - and allowing 14 hits in 40 1-3 innings. The left-hander threw a three-hit shutout while striking out six Thursday against Oakland.

“Everything feels good right now,” said Romero, who has a chance to become the first Blue Jays pitcher to win six straight starts since A.J. Burnett(notes) in 2008. “I’m attacking the zone, being consistent with my pitches and not panicking in situations. I feel in control right now.”

Romero’s ERA ranks fifth in the AL - three spots behind Verlander and one ahead of Sabathia - though he likely faces an uphill battle to be a serious Cy Young contender ahead of more high-profile names.

That may change if he continues this stretch.

“What he’s done is slow the game down mentally,” manager John Farrell said. “He’s not rushed into any pitches, and in key spots he’s made some big pitches.”

Romero suffered a tough loss June 9 in Kansas City after allowing three runs in eight innings of a 3-2 defeat. The Royals scored all of their runs in the third inning, and they used two more three-run innings in beating the Blue Jays 6-4 in the series opener Tuesday.

Billy Butler(notes) and Eric Hosmer(notes) hit solo homers, while rookies Johnny Giavotella(notes) and Salvador Perez(notes) each drove in two runs.

“Our attack was well-balanced,” manager Ned Yost said. “We drove the gaps, we did a nice job in our situational hitting and got big hits when we needed to.”

Kansas City (53-76) will seek to win back-to-back games for the first time since Aug. 3-4 when it sends Luke Hochevar(notes) (8-10, 4.93) to the mound Wednesday.

Hochevar allowed four runs in six innings of a 4-3 loss to Boston on Thursday for his second straight rough outing. The No. 1 overall pick in 2006 gave up five runs in six innings of a 5-4 defeat at Chicago in his previous start Aug. 13.

The right-hander looks to bounce back versus a Blue Jays team he’s pitched well against throughout his career. Hochevar outdueled Romero in June when he allowed two runs in seven innings, improving to 3-1 with a 3.16 ERA in four starts versus Toronto.

He’ll contend with a Toronto lineup which has scored only six runs over the last four games, losing three of those contests.

Yunel Escobar(notes) broke an 0 for 13 slump with a three-run homer in the sixth inning Tuesday.

The Blue Jays (65-63) were playing their first game without infielder John McDonald(notes) and former All-Star Aaron Hill(notes), whom they dealt to Arizona in exchange for second baseman Kelly Johnson(notes) on Tuesday.

It’s unknown if Johnson will be in the lineup Wednesday, though he has been mired in a funk this season, hitting .209 with 18 homers, 49 RBIs and 132 strikeouts.

“He’d be the first one to tell you, I’m sure, he’s not performing the way he expected to, especially off the year he came off last year,” general manager Alex Anthopoulos said of Johnson’s 26-homer, 71-RBI campaign in 2010. “Maybe he comes here and plays well.”

The Royals have won six of the last nine meetings.

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Starting Pitchers

L. Hochevar KC vs. R. Romero Tor
11-11 Record 15-11
4.68 ERA 2.92
128 K 178
62 BB 80
1.28 WHIP 1.14

Scoreboard

Wednesday, Aug 24